The executive vice president of vehicle test and high performance development. Not a bad job title, isn’t it?
Hyundai Motor Group, which incorporates both Hyundai and Kia, is a title used by Albert Biermann. Has been for a couple of years, in fact. Because, at 57, if someone makes an offer, and you’ve been at your former place of 32 years, what else are you going to do? Even if the place was BMW, and, finally, who is basically in charge of the revered M division. Biermann imagined that he had made his mark, achieved what I wanted and I thought, well… why the heck not?
So here we are, a couple of years later, and the Korean conglomerate Kia Stinger and the Hyundai i30 N are about to go on sale. The fruits of work, if you like.
We have seen Biermann twice this year. In April, while on a trip to the uk to suss out our roads and how the vehicles dynamically handle them â€“ more on that later â€“ and then, behind the scenes at the Frankfurt motor show.
Biermann was in good shape on both occasions, as you might expect given that the products it is putting out. Both i30 N, which is Hyundai’s first hot hatch, and Stinger GT, the Kia, which will be the target for the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe, have been well received. Things are good.
“Everything is finished”, says the Stinger GT. “I want to say, that do not have mass production of cars out yet, but they are more or less on the way from Korea to Europe”. Those who have driven this new grand tourer, a rear-wheel drive executive hatchback – cum-coupÃ©, including the Coach’s own testers, have been heated.
“People are surprised a Kia can drive like this,” says Biermann. “And at this point, we just put the 3.3-liter V6, and we don’t focus on the 2.0-liter gasoline or diesel [versions]. But I’m also quite optimistic about those. Of course, some power missing, but the sporty character is there.”
That is all very well, Albert, if the Stinger is a flagship vehicle. But what of the cars beyond that? “We try,” Biermann says. “If the unity of the Stonic now, you can find the unit is not exactly what you would expect from a little B-segment SUV.
“It is also, perhaps, a little more agile, a little more fun to drive than expected two years ago. But isn’t that the best fun of the machine, has to serve for driving in the city, and so on.”
He also says that Kia has “put a lot of effort in the next cee’d, so you can expect a good step for driving fun, accuracy, agility and so on, in comparison with the previous cee’d, and this is a car that puts a little more attention and concentration in that area. But, as you know, we do tons of cars and we can not give you all the dynamics of the attention] of them all.
“The philosophy for the Sting was different, because we are challenging you to a premium OEM level, and I think that the effort that we have put in the car was also a little bit focused on the challenge, so put more effort into the car of the others.”
Hyundai has had its Genesis salons before â€“ and again â€“ but the Stinger is the first time that Kia has tried to combine it with the European big boys. Has the public perception changed at all? “I can’t tell yet, but I am sure that is going to happen,” Biermann says. “The Sting is going to change the expectation of cars Kia in general, because people are going to think that we can perform at a higher level.” He knows, however, that it’s going to be a long road to get a Kia in the same conversation as an Audi, BMW or Mercedes-Benz.
As you might expect from someone who spent so much time in the M division, it is the dynamics that get Biermann attention. Therefore the visit to the united kingdom. “That event clearly gave us more emphasis on the attribute of optimization. Our team went to the uk again [in late August], so we definitely have to take more care of the united kingdom of the driving of the requirements,” he says.
Great britain of the only fucking roads are one of the reasons why the Kias and Hyundais of today and tomorrow will be a better car than the current one.
“The uk adds more difficulty,” Biermann says. “You have bad state of the roads surfaces are poor and have more of the crown; and the narrowness of the streets, where everybody has to go between the hedges. And narrow pathways of the city. You don’t find that in Germany, where until now we have focused our European adjustment.”
Come to the uk means “we are clearly focused on greater agility, steering response and the accuracy of the direction for the future,” he says. “And also to adjust a little more to the harsh conditions of the roads.”
Not all companies do that, you know, pay attention to the small details like that, to get things basically right. It is new for Kia. “We have some new experiences”, says Biermann. “But it is very fruitful because all of a sudden, the car is competing in a premium European car level. And they like it, you know.”
So are we, Albert, for what they are.
Biermann greatest hits:
BMW M3 (E30) RACE CARS – touring cars get a little more successful or famous than the E30 M3, one of Biermann’s early projects in the BMW, due to a background in which he did a spot of racing yourself.
BMW X5 (E70) – The original X5 (E53) was a groundbreaking car. Biermann was the project leader of the second-generation version of the task of making more luxurious.
BMW 1 SERIES M COUPE – Biermann to the arrival of BMW M Division, which put itself at the head of in 2008, largely coincided with M’s move to turbocharged engines. The 1-Series M Coupe, a cult classic produced in the year 2011, it is without doubt the biggest up to now.
HYUNDAI i30 N – Turbochargers, yet, but it’s also the first car that Biermann has led the development of. N division was already in place in Biermann’s arrival, but he has seen a band’s new hot hatch over the line.
BMW X5 review
Hyundai i30 N review
BMW M3 review